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How to safely enjoy bodies of water in Philly parks

by Grace Romo on July 13, 2023

Water is vital to our health and our communities. Not only is going outside and experiencing bodies of water good for our physical health, access to water has proven to be good for mental and spiritual health as well. According to Today, water soothes people, bringing on a “calming, positive state of mind.” Likewise, a study published July 2022 in Scientific Reports found that people who lived near blue spaces had lower risks for mental health issues. 

However, access to water isn’t as equitable as it should be. It’s shown that low income communities, usually comprised of people of color, are less likely to live near clean bodies of water. This same group of people also have less access to mental health services

So how do we increase access to water in Philadelphia? 

Fairmount Park Conversancy helps people access water safely in several ways. Here are some examples: 

Intro to Rowing

One of our programs is a beginner-friendly, extensive Learn to Row program led by Brannon Johnson of BLJ Community Rowing. As the only Black owned and operated rowing club in America, BLJ is passionate about providing access to the elite sport of rowing by removing boundaries and creating opportunities.

Beginners learn all aspects of sculling, including a breakdown of the stroke, how to get in and out of the boat, the rules of the river, and the many technical aspects of the sport in an easy-to-understand way.

When and where
July sessions: 7/5, 7/12, and 7/19
August sessions: 8/9, 8/16, and 8/23
All from 4:30-6:00 pm at BLJ Rowing. Ticket price is for all three sessions.

This program is so great, it sold out! Stay tuned for more BLJ Rowing events in the future

Kayaking on the Schuylkill

Kayaking on the tidal Schuylkill offers a whole new perspective on our city and its water source. No gear or kayaking experience is necessary — kayaking equipment and instruction provided by Hidden River Outfitters. 

Starting from the Walnut Street dock along the Schuylkill River Trail, the tour heads upriver to the Fairmount Water Works, where you’ll experience a rarely seen perspective of these historic structures from the water below. 

When and where
7/20 from 6:45 pm to 8:30 pm
8/17 from 6:30 pm to 8:15 pm
9/21 from 5:45 pm to 7:30 pm
All from starting at Hidden River Outfitters

Get tickets here!

Sunset Kayak at FDR

FDR is the only park in Philadelphia with publicly accessible lakes and an active boating program. As you kayak through three bodies of water during sunset, Pattison Lagoon, Edgewood Lake, and Hollander Creek, it is a serene, yet exciting experience. 

Moving calmly through the water lets you closely observe an array of wildlife, especially the variety of bird species. 

When and where
7/12 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
9/13 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm
10/4 from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
FDR Park Boathouse

Get tickets here!

Community Boating

Fairmount Park Conservancy offers free community boating on select Saturdays from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM for FDR Park neighbors. All ages are welcome, regardless of experience. We know life can get busy so there is no pre-registration required. You can sign up on the spot for a 45 minute time slot!

When and where
Saturday, 7/22, 8/5,  9/23, 10/7, 10/14
FDR Park Boathouse

These are just to name a few, but there are more opportunities to get closer to water and you can find them on our events page

Be on the lookout for new projects, like the restoration of riparian edge at the Pattison Lagoon in FDR Park, where visitors will soon be able to enjoy water views and new native plantings. 

While access to water is important, safety is just as important. Please read this blog post published by Parks and Recreation on how to safely enjoy water during the summer.